Wednesday, January 2, 2008

by request (kind of)

I. The Adventures of Sid.
1. In which we meed Sid, and the adventures begin

There was an alligator. His name was Sid, which is to say his name was Stevenius Ignatius Darlington III. I do not know if he was happy, for it is not something we ever discussed. Sid did, however, suffer from insomnia; he would use these hours of tossing and turning to balance his account books. He was that type of alligator.

Sid had spent a quiet lifetime working as a government employee, shuffling between departments, watching policy changes and political appointments slowly trickle down to affect his own department, his own workspace. For a time he attended every inauguration, every state of the union address; he collected signed autographs of each Secretary of the Interior from 1947 onward. It is likely he would have continued in these quiet and gentle pursuits, but his first and only love, the city of Washington, DC, suddenly terminated their relationship.

(yes, there will be a happy ending)

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II. A place of one's own

Lying catatonic on the couch. Or, rather, slumped, indecorously, in a heap on the couch, a pile formed of barely conscious human and alternating purring cat and back issues of the New Yorker. Psychology articles are full of references to holiday breakdowns. but so rarely do they mention any requisite post-family-intensive-recovery-period, funded by Zombiton, a new anti-anxiety anti-depressant anti-travel-sickness medicine by the makers of Ambien, Zoloft, and Prozac. This medical cocktail is also available as a generic, ask your pharmacist how a Bloody Mary may be able to assist you, today.

Forsaking the temple to silence and contemplation that one has carefully constructed of perfectly matched china and polished silver, a land free of televisions, republicans, and god; and entering the safari of family, the territorial trumpeting of brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and mysterious small children whom belong to no one in particular but multiply by the millisecond. Is there a domestic form of the malaria pill?

So we return to lying, slumping, slouching, not quite dozing in a land where nothing traumatic is permitted to occur and pandemonium and bedlam are merely encountered in stories of revolution in eighteenth century Britain. Occasionally this temple of protected space enlarges, when the day is sunny and deadlines do not loom, the walk between old factories. Gazing beyond water towers into the fragments of the industrial age, skeletons of human ingenuity which have been forsaken to the ever stronger pull of natural destruction.

As the incessant drowning siren of noises is the family, it's symptoms similar to leprosy, so too do the factories reflect the wear of their distant cousins: neglect, wind, sun. What is the time allotment between abandonment, and grass growing through perfectly leveled asphalt parking lots? What is the lifespan of a brick wall? Following ghost towns of America, or simply finding the gas station deemed unprofitable: watching illness and aging cracking into the human ideal of perfection, as our inclinations change and vision declines to see what no longer holds our interest.

In many ways, I dream of becoming the abandoned factory, the living testament to a good idea that is now allowed to rest and to ruin. The rooks may nestle in my hair; teenagers may throw stones into my eyes, cracking the glazing, until cataracts replace vision with plywood inserts. My foundation will grow into the ground, just as grasses and weeds both anchor me and eat into my own structure. Soon I will lose my arms, my head to vandals; feral cats will fearlessly hunt equally fearless feral rats. Finally, at rest, alone, one with the elements, sitting in the window as the wind rustles through the trees.

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III. It's a bird! It's a plane!

Everyone knows about Sputnik, and the early canine Russian space explorers. How they sent dogs bravely where no man had gone before, and neglected to include the means to return home to their beloved masters.

His name was Fido. It wasn't much of a name, but, to be honest, he wasn't much of a dog. Parentage uncertain, but as a puppy he had dreams of the grandeur of his ancestry. A great-great uncle who hunted with the czars. A grandmother who visited the courts of Europe. A second cousin three times removed who was a gift of goodwill to the Chinese emperor. In return, Russia received a panda bear, and Fido has always felt a small thrill of familial pride that his genes may be deemed as valuable as those of a panda.

Such is the strength of willful delusion. In reality, Fido was the product of a quick and dirty evening in an alley of Saint Petersburg, where the rough and tumble rubbed shoulders amongst the onion soup cast-offs from the local cafe. His mother was a rat-terrier, more rat than terrier, and his father was nothing other than a stranger from out of town, breed unknown, markings ambiguous.

Which is why Fido became the hero of our story. It just goes to show that a life on the streets can lead to the stars, although the scientist Ernst Maxenweuller never actually asked Fido if he wanted to achieve greatness, or to have greatness thrust upon him. Ernst Maxenweuller simply asked his able assistant Teddy to find a mongrel weighing no more than seven pounds, and less than a foot in length, preferably under eight inches tall. Hence Fido. He was named by Teddy's younger brother, who otherwise does not figure in our story.

So Fido posed for photographs, next to Sputnik and inside Sputnik and with his little custom made and hand embroidered dog space suit and oxygen tank. Publicity is a strange thing: they could have just as easily sent a sack of flour, or a chicken. But then I would be writing about Emma the Hen and not about Fido, Dog of the Heavens.

For the story does not actually end with the satellite successfully being launched into orbit, Fido hailed as a national hero and then abandoned to his kibble- and oxygen-free fate, to spin through the Milky Way for eternity. What actually happened is much less worthy of a Russian melodrama and rather more interesting. But the Russians rarely seek happy endings, and so their news reports left out the true story of Fido.

For space exploration was much more advanced than the Russian or the American governments were willing to relate to the general public. Fido's one way ticket to the Man in the Moon was actually a cover for a much more intriguing experiment in domestic dynamics: the nuclear family in space. Fido was being sent as a Christmas present for the young daughter in a colony on the shadowed side of the moon. She had requested a pony, but, alas, the Russian government felt too conspicuous sending a horse into space. People might suspect the truth.

She and Fido lived happily every after, a girl and her dog in space.


reading ski package prices
weather is this good/? is this kind? is this necessary?